On the same day Sophie Germain won the prize for her mathematical work on vibrating plates, the commissioners of the Academy of Sciences announced the (last) theorem of Fermat as the topic for the 1818 contest of mathematics. A happy coincidence? Germain kept her feelings secret, or at least there are no written words to shed light on her intellectual delight, as the new competition would carry her back to her first love—number theory. It would give her a fresh impetus to pursue once again the proof of the célèbre équation de Fermat, as she called it, an effort she had begun years earlier.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.